Ask Reading Kingdom: Should kids with high functioning autism be held back in school?


Jackie (Parent) Asks:

Should kids with high functioning autism be held back in school?

Reading Kingdom founder, Dr. Marion Blank answers:

Without more information, it is difficult to answer this question. So let’s consider what some of that “information” might be. If a child is doing well in school, it would be unlikely that the question of “holding them back” would even come up. So it is probably the case that something is not going well. It is also likely that that “something” is behavior. Behavioral difficulties in adapting to complex social situations (such as those encountered in schools) are common in autism—whether high functioning or not. When difficulties such as those are present, “holding back” is rarely a solution since the behavioral problems will likely surface in lower grades as well. Paths that are more likely to yield success are classrooms with alternative structures (such as smaller classes, greater availability of computers, tight schedules which tend to ease the children’s anxieties, classes with lower levels of stimulation, etc.)

It is also useful to consider a factor that rarely receives the attention it deserves. Given the value our society places on language, when children are experiencing difficulties, adults are, often unconsciously, pulled into the “talk mode” where they either “explain” the situation to the child (e.g., “you know that we have to …”) or the “question” mode where they ask the child to elaborate on what is going wrong  (e.g., “why did you..”). Discussions of this sort are not easily handled by children on the spectrum and in the end, they often exacerbate an already tense situation. By contrast, it is generally more effective to simply state what is needed (e.g., “please put X…”) and then give the child ample time to process and respond. In any event, there are alternatives to “holding back” and it is worthwhile exploring what these alternatives can offer the children.

Children with ASD are frequently able to successfully learn to read and write – when given the correct teaching materials.  Learn how our online reading program is used by children with ASD by clicking here. We also offer many learning resources related to ASD on our informative blog.

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